With quarter of season gone, Red Wings still searching for offense
Amazing as it would seem, the NHL is mostly done with a quarter of its season already.
Since the regular season is only 56 games long because of the pandemic, it becomes a little more understandable.
And many teams haven’t quite reached that 14-game quarter-pole because of having games canceled due to COVID protocol.
But the Red Wings aren’t one of those teams. They began the second quarter, game No. 15 Thursday, the same way most of the first quarter went.
With a loss, 3-2 in Nashville, in the Predators’ game-winner scored with a minute left in the game.
At 3-10-1, the Red Wings are last in the Central Division and next to last in the entire NHL (Ottawa has the worst record, 2-12-1).
It hasn’t been the Red Wings envisioned. And it was caused, at least partly, by COVID-19 taking out five regulars at one time, just several weeks into the season.
“We went through a stretch we were missing five guys to COVID, and we lost our way a little bit during that stretch,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “Outside of that stretch, we’ve played the type of hockey, both before the five guys were out, and since the Tampa game we got spanked (a decisive loss Feb. 3), the type of hockey that we have to play, any organization has to play, to win.”
Blashill is pleased with the way the Wings have progressed in many areas, especially since that one-sided Tampa loss.
“We’ve checked fairly well and we’re growing in that area,” Blashill said. “We’ve competed and played physical, wand we’re growing in that area.”
Offense continues to be an issue.
The Wings ranked 31st (last) with 1.93 goals per game, 30th on the power play (8.5 percent), 28th in goals for (29), showing statistically how far behind they are.
“We have to find ways to score on our chances,” Blashill said. “We’re getting enough chances to score. We have to find ways to score on our chances.
"That’s where I would say we’re growing and what I look for, and what I’m looking for. We want to judge our team on the individual growth of our players and the growth of our team."
Forward Mathias Brome is discovering the NHL isn't the Swedish Elite League. Or vice versa.
Brome, an undrafted free agent the Wings signed last summer, is looking for his first point in 13 games. Brome also played a significant part in not clearing the puck in the final minute Thursday, which led to the Predators' game-winning goal.
Brome was one of the Wings' better stories in training camp, and Blashill remains optimistic Brome will succeed in the NHL.
“The NHL is hard," Blashill said. "It’s hard to produce offense, and it’s hard when you’re not big or super-fast, and he's not either. But he’s gotten chances, and with chances he will eventually score.
"He started the Swedish Elite League a similar type of way, where he went a number of games without scoring, and all the sudden he popped a bunch. We’re hoping he pops and starts gaining confidence.
"But I like him. He tries to do the right things and he plays hard.”
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As for Thursday's decisive play, Blashill said, "That puck got caught up on the yellow (along the boards) a little bit when I looked at it again. I’m not sure if it hit snow or what. It was a little bit unfortunate. Certainly, you have to make a play on that puck, but he’s not a careless player at all.”
Blashill said forward Darren Helm (lower body) will not be available for Saturday's game and is day-to-day. Forward Luke Glendening (upper body) practiced Friday, but Glendening's availability is undetermined.
... Defenseman Danny DeKeyser, coming off herniated disc surgery, is essentially a healthy scratch who isn't totally healthy.
“Danny is available to play," Blashill said. "Right now, it’s a coach’s decision, but it’s not like we have a 100 percent Danny DeKeyser. He’s recovering from the surgery.
... Forward Givani Smith has shown glimpses of being an effective power forward in the NHL, but the young player remains a raw, inconsistent prospect at the NHL level, also.
"He has the potential to be physical, hard around the net,” Blashill said. “He’s got to be a super-simple player, efficient, getting pucks behind people, and go to the net front. That’s what’s going to make him successful."
Red Wings at Predators
Faceoff: 8, Saturday, Bridgestone Arena, Nashville, Tenn.
Outlook: The Red Wings (3-19-2) and Nashville (6-8) conclude a two-game series…The Red Wings are completing a six-game road trip in which they've won one game...Thursday's Nashville victory ended a six-game Wings' win streak at Bridgestone Arena.